Sunday, March 8, 2015

Quick Cut Review: "Horns"


Directed by: Alexendre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella and Joe Anderson
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 hour 3 minutes  
Release Date: October 31, 2014



For anyone that is still having trouble divorcing Daniel Radcliffe from his Harry Potter persona, his new film Horns may just be the thing that finally sways you. Radcliffe has been on a seemingly never ending quest to rid himself of the Harry Potter stigma, something that will always be a part of his life and career whether he likes it or not. Taking on projects like The Woman in Black, Little Darlings as well as his latest film Horns felt like desperation at first, trying to find anything that could separate him from Hogwarts as much as possible and he comes closer to that goal here than ever before. Read the full review after the break.

Horns has the young actor in a role that is sure to make just about anyone forget that wizard as he stampedes through the film on a hellish mission to clear his name for the murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple) and sleuth his way to discovering who actually killed her. This isn’t just another murder mystery though as director Alexandre Aja adds in the devilish twist of having Radcliffe’s tormented teenager slowly transform into the devil himself and as you might expect, it all starts one morning when he suddenly grows a pair of horns.


While Radcliffe’s performance is good, he is often times upstaged (or overshadowed) by the craziness going on around him. Even though he is brandishing a pair of horns, he still has to contend with playing the straight guy (most of the time anyway) while everyone around him gets to indulge in their wild side. He never gets to soak in the entirety of his ludicrous situation either as the film is more interested in solving the predictable, but interesting, murder mystery than it is in exploring this strange effect he has on people which despite bringing out the worst in them results in the films best moments.
There isn’t given much explanation as to where the horns and his powers come from other than him smiting God, but that’s alright because Horns strengths don't lie in its ability to spell out how any of this is possible, its strength lies in its execution which is a potent mixture of drama, suspense and dark comedy elements that helps it forge a unique, if slightly flawed, identity. While the dramatic bits are handled well, its the surprising number of comedic beats where seeing these normal small town folk suddenly act out their wildest cravings that Aja hits out of the park. The film sometimes has an almost reflective effect that will have some viewers looking inward at themselves and wondering what the devil might bring out in them.



Where the film struggles a little bit is in its second half when Radcliffe goes from a fun loving instigator into full on angel of death. The scenes with him causing pain to others (who definitely deserve it mind you) and making them pay for their sins never felt as fulfilling the moments earlier when he is simply having fun with the power, such as a scene where he makes a bunch of reporters fight each other for an exclusive interview. These vengeance sequences just lacked the punch needed to make them as potent as it felt like they wanted to be, but thankfully the final moments of the film slightly redeems those lackluster moments with a sensational act of evil and vengeance.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Horns is a fun movie, but don’t be fooled. The gimmick is the real draw here as the story, while touching from time to time, just doesn't pull you in the way one would hope. The way the film intercuts with scenes of Radcliffe traipsing around town causing chaos with these extensive flashbacks undercuts much of the momentum that is built up. It is also problematic when the third act does little to standout from the enjoyable sinful acts we got to see earlier. Even with those issues though Horns still comes recommended for anyone looking for a film with a dark sense of humor whose premise is at the very least unique enough to warrant a look from anyone curious about its devilish delights.

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